You go from dreary Parsons Boulevard in Queens to Hollywood movie mogul but can’t feel your life. What do you do? You have such pretty people begging for a taste of your dreams but feel nothing. What do you do? In a sausage-factory city, you produce works of art but feel worse than ever. What do you do? You can manipulate the entertainment capital of the world into Oscar after Oscar after Oscar until you feel like God but even that’s nothing. What do you do?
In Hollywood, the answer is: Don’t ask.
It would be nice if open secrets about Hollywood’s many sociopathic, perverse beasts raised a “How did we let this happen?” kind of question, but sorry, delving is not our thing. Our business takes place under office headsets, over acoustically dangerous restaurant tables, and we just want to — need to — be in the know enough to say, “Oh, my God,” make the most convenient joke and then whisper the open secret to someone else. Our electrical contractors and insurance agents need to know, too.
It would be nice if blatantly deviant behavior goosed us into coughing up some hairball of human reflection. Maybe a slightly miffed “Why?” But no, no, no — we don’t chase epiphanies down Burton Way. The open secret itself is all the epiphany we need, thank you.
It would be nice if we recognized our own complicity in monstrous conduct, but, really, a perfect rationalization is just sitting there: With so many open secrets hanging around, we’ve built up an immunity. (“Really? He’s a predatory deviant, too? Anyway, yeah, they’re bringing back ‘Roseanne.’ ”)
Right up there with movies, TV shows and music, dirt is one more product of the entertainment industry, and everyone’s a consumer. Even your electrical contractor and insurance agent. But especially us.
It would be nice if we indicted ourselves in our crimes against humanity, but — well, let’s take a shot at that one.
Years ago, at an industry screening, I heard a rumor about the very subject of our current (exploded) open secret. Let’s just say it was horrible and explicit and wolfish but was conveyed in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone.
“Oh,” I said.
The movie was really great, and at dinner the next night, I told a lot of friends they shouldn’t wait for the DVD. “Go see it at a really big theater. It’s what movies should be. And, by the way, I heard this rumor.”
“Really? Guess I’m out of the loop. Thinking maybe we should split some tiramisu.”
Guilty, your honor.
It would’ve been nice if, before this month when some of us finally copped a plea, we’d taken a second to visualize the actual open secret in action. It would’ve been nice if we’d gone deep enough to place ourselves inside the suites at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel and let the revulsion hit us, rather than just grabbing the open secret and converting it into currency.
It would have been nice if we’d stopped to think, “You know, my electrical contractor and insurance agent don’t really need to know how far we go.” It would have been nice if we’d imagined the day all of this human wreckage would blow up and gotten beyond wondering which rehab facility would be the logical choice for this particularly nasty case.
But then, this isn’t a nice place.
Peter Mehlman is a comedian and former writer on “Seinfeld.” He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.